Self-care research: Where are we now? Where are we going?

Barbara Riegel, Sandra B. Dunbar, Donna Fitzsimons, Kenneth E. Freedland, Christopher S. Lee, Sandy Middleton, Anna Stromberg, Ercole Vellone, David E. Webber, Tiny Jaarsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Background and objective: The beneficial effects of self-care include improved well-being and lower morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs. In this article we address the current state of self-care research and propose an agenda for future research based on the inaugural conference of the International Center for Self-Care Research held in Rome, Italy in June 2019. The vision of this Center is a world where self-care is prioritized by individuals, families, and communities and is the first line of approach in every health care encounter. The mission of the Center is to lead the self-care research endeavor, improving conceptual clarity and promoting interdisciplinary work informed by a shared vision addressing knowledge gaps. A focused research agenda can deepen our theoretical understanding of self-care and the mechanisms underlying self-care, which can contribute to the development of effective interventions that improve outcomes. Methods: During conference discussions, we identified seven major reasons why self-care is challenging, which can be grouped into the general categories of behavior change and illness related factors. We identified six specific knowledge gaps that, if addressed, may help to address these challenges: the influence of habit formation on behavior change, resilience in the face of stressful life events that interfere with self-care, the influence of culture on self-care behavioral choices, the difficulty performing self-care with multiple chronic conditions, self-care in persons with severe mental illness, and the influence of others (care partners, family, peer supporters, and healthcare professionals) on self-care. Plans to achieve results: To achieve the vision and mission of the Center, we will lead a collaborative program of research that addresses self-care knowledge gaps and improves outcomes, create a supportive international network for knowledge transfer and support of innovations in self-care research, and support and train others in self-care research. Beyond these specific short-term goals, important policy implications of this work are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103402
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Behavior change
  • Caregivers
  • Choice behavior
  • Goals
  • Habits
  • Health care costs
  • Mental illness
  • Multiple chronic conditions
  • Self-care
  • Social support


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